Top Eleven Albums – Part 1

Image by annca from Pixabay

I was talking with my in-laws over the weekend about memory. They volunteer at Grace Arbor, a place where older folks with various memory/dementia issues can go for the day and have activities and listen to music (among other things). They mentioned that they heard the portion of the brain which remembers music never truly goes away.

Which reminded me of a scene in Before Sunset where Ethan Hawke is talking about how misuc can be a form of time travel for a person. That when you hear a particular song it returns you to the place where it means the most to you and instantly you are 8 or 18 or 28 again.

I love that idea.

And then on my Facebook feed various people have all been doing the FB challenge of posting your favorite albums (or ones that had the greatest effect upon your life) but without any comment.

But the comment… the context is key. It’s as important as anything else. So… here’s some context.

Far – Water and Solutions

I’m 20 and my friends have rented a ski cabin in North Carolina for the weekend. Egg (who discovered the band in the first place) puts on Water and Solutions and it becomes, for me, the theme of the trip. It’s heavy at times and yet soulful. No one who hears it in the cabin has a bad word to say about it.

Later, I’ll find out the lead singer (Jonah Matranga) has a tape of some of his solo stuff available to send off for through the mail (good lord, that’s like the dark ages). I send away for them, immediately transfer them from the tape which arrives to a digital format, burn it onto a cd, and still wear those songs out.

Even later, I’ll be at a club show for Far and decide to tap him on the shoulder and tower over him with all 6’5″ of my frame in order to tell him how much I love his music. Egg says I gave the guy the scare of a life. I’m not so sure.

!0 Years – The Autumn Effect

Somehow, due to me putting a bunch of music on my wife’s phone over a decade ago, 10 Years became one of her favorite bands. Last year, 10 Years played a anniversary show where they played this album from front to back. It was both of our first times seeing the band (somehow we kept missing them previously). As it was the first night of this anniversary tour, they had only rehearsed the album, so when they went off stage after the last song, we expected an encore song or two. The lead singer came back out, informing us that they had nothing else, but that wouldn’t satisfy us, so, all by himself, he sang one of the more beautiful versions of their song “So Long, Good-bye”. And we all joined in. Just a couple of hundred people and a guy with a microphone singing as loudly as we could.

One of the best moments from any concert I’ve ever been to.

The Misfits – Collection 1

When you are younger, there are so many ways your music tastes can go. Things you hear your parents play can go a long way to shaping you. My parents listened to the Oldies station nearly exclusively. Lots of late 50s and 60s songs. In fact, there was a time where my sister and I didn’t realize there were other stations on the radio. It never changed from the one station, and for some reason, it never occurred to us that those MTV songs we heard had to be on the radio somewhere.

Yet, it is through your friends where I think the key music comes in. So when Lee gave me a copy of the Misfits, I had no idea what I was in for. It destroyed my brain. These 2-minute songs (at the longest) were a blistering, blazing, fireball of in your face music. And they sang about the most outrageous things when they weren’t singing about some weird movies I’d never seen.

I must have been 12 or 13, at the beach in Destin, and listened to these songs over and over on my Walkman. I didn’t dare let my parents listen, but my sister still almost ruined it by sneaking a listen and then telling them about what she’d heard. For some reason, they were unfazed.

But that was really the moment that the heavier side of rock/punk was going to be my wheelhouse.

Taproot – Blue Sky Research

I’m sorry if Nu-Metal left a bad taste in your mouth. I will never understand that. It is the music that I listen to the most even to this day. And I would claim that this particular album might be my favorite of the entire genre. I can listen to it over and over and have never gotten sick of it. It feels like such a complete album where there is no one song I would remove from it. I love it so much, I’m interested in hearing any of the songs that might have been written around the same time.

With this one, I’m at work and needing to really focus on whatever project I’m working on. And this CD will not get removed from my CD Player. When I reach the end, we just loop around to begin again. But it isn’t only work, when I’m writing, it is one of my go-to albums to put on, pushing and pulling me into the correct train of thought.

Shock Lobo – My Wicked Soul

There are a handful of bands that I have seen which were openers for the band I wanted to see and then have gone on to be a favorite of mine. Shock Lobo was not only one of those (they were opening for The Josh Joplin Band and caught our eyes/ears), but since they were local to Atlanta, we saw them a lot. Pretty much every show they did locally Courtney and Chris and I went and saw them. When they needed fans to show up for a special taping, we were there. When they opened for Toad the Wet Sprocket, we were there.

So much so that the three of us are listed in the liner notes under the Thank You section.

With them, it isn’t one particular moment or performance, but all of them. Agnes Scott College. Them playing at a pizza restaurant. Underground Atlanta. The Point.

Mostly, it reminds me of a time, when I was in college, just hanging out with some good friends, listening to musicians play this music that we all loved.


My last 6 will come next week!


John McGuire is the creator/author of the steampunk comic The Gilded Age. The Trade paperback collecting the first 4 issues is finally back from the printers! If you would like to purchase a copy, go here!

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His other prose appears in The Dark That Follows, Hollow EmpireBeyond the Gate, and Machina Obscurum – A Collection of Small Shadows.

He can also be found at